Lush Lawn or Barren Desert
Turf grass is great for one thing only: uniformity. HOA’s typically dictate even which type of turf grass is preferred in the neighborhood, to lend a uniform curbside appeal from house to house. Ours on the Texas Gulf Coast is St. Augustine, a hardy, drought-resistant, semi-invasive variety.
To people, it’s pretty and easy on the feet. To pollinators, it’s is an unforgivable expanse of desert devoid of food.
In the spring, our St. Augustine is just waking up from its winter dormancy, leaves reaching up from stems along the ground to the sun, breaking free from the sprinkled carpet of sprouting annuals fighting for their chance as well. To us, they’re ‘weeds’ meant to be pulled or poisoned, to others, welcomed food after a bleak winter.
By summertime, this turf will do its job of choking out just about everything else, and it will back to a sea of green for our eyes, soft blades for bare feet.
St. Augustine certainly has its benefits:
- manageable bed border
- successfully crowds out equally invasive, previously established turf species like Bermuda, torpedo, nutsedge, quack grass
- prevents invasion of other grasses into garden spaces and flower beds
- stops soil erosion along slopes and in ditches
- easily maintained, minimal-water lawn (as long as you don’t fertilize or ‘weed feed’)
Urbanization, however, has irreversibly changed the landscape for many species of insects, some of which are in real trouble like the Monarch butterfly and the honey bee. Without these pollinators, we too will be in trouble.
Some of us are taking action where we can.
While the front yard may be for the HOA’s and neighbor’s eyes, the back yard remains yours for re-wilding. As ours is open fencing allowing viewing into neighbors adjacent yards, there is an understanding not to let things get too visually displeasing.
Thanks to a riding lawn mower that was non-functional during the peak green-up period in March. we got to see entirely by accident just how functional an unkempt turf grass could be for the countless creatures that also call our yard home.
- Wrens and Mockingbirds — spiders, also taking advantage of the fly population hunkered down in the grasses, are a favorite food for insectivores already raising families
- Bluebirds and Flycatchers — mosquito hawks bed down in the long grasses, for easy swooping-in and reliable food
- Deer — Morning and evening ‘munchies’ of wildflowers and native grasses that took hold during winter keep the doe herd returning daily to feed and bed down
- Bees and Butterflies — a welcome food source for egg-laying swallowtail, monarch, gossamer, whites, sulphur, as well as bumble bees and honey bees
- Snakes, Lizards — provide cover for a quick escape from predation by hawks when moving between habitats
Re-wilding: The Plan Put To Action
The first mow of spring last week left a large chunk of two parts of the backyard intact with late-winter / early-spring wildflowers, around 7,500 square feet of more than an acre.
Only time will tell whether our backyard neighbors are bothered at all by it, and since we are ‘keeping manicured’ all the turf at least 10 feet in from all shared fencing, I can’t imagine why they’d complain.
In return, I get to mow grass for 10 minutes less each time throughout the spring. Once the annuals die out and go to seed, I will return to mowing the area through the hottest days of summer.
All the non-human neighbors don’t seem to mind at all. In fact, they now choose our yard for their daily foraging.
Deer Bedding and Food
a/k/a/ Garden Lion
Tiny Wood Sorrel
Honey Bee on Clover
Grey Hairstreak on Clover
Mowed Around These
In The Garden Space
A handful of Milkweed was left to seed and in one otherwise non-functional section of flower bed space, save the onion patch currently squatting there, it is now overrun by hundreds of Monarch caterpillars.
Sprigs of milkweed are popping up from seeds planted throughout the vegetable garden, springing up between the edibles with their pretty red-and-yellow flowers singing happily to the world of insects, Come and get it!
Main Food Source For
Happy Sunshine Nuggets
Soon To Emerge…
Happy Bug Boy